Narrative Structure analysis








Why analysis of Narrative Structure? 

I found out that I cannot fix the Narrative Structure’s problems for two reasons: 

  1. I am emotionally attached to my work.
  2. I don’t have enough experience to logically analysis my work. Thus, it is better to start practicing dissecting the works I have no emotional connection with—other people’s work!

The difficulty is the Narrative Structure and the Character Arc should be intertwined. However, to learn them it helps to analyze them separately. In this blog post and the following posts, I analyze picture books which, in my opinion, are well structured. These are neither sponsored by the publisher nor requested by the authors. I will analyze the Character Arc in another blog post.

The basic of the Narrative Structure is covered in this blog post. I am not going to repeat it here. 

Some consideration: 

  • As Syd Field says the Narrative Structure is a form, not a formula. The rule of thumb says the Beginning and the End are about 25% of the story and the Middle takes the 50% left. In the following analysis, you’ll see that in some stories the Middle is longer or shorter than 50%. These numbers are an approximation, not unbreakable rules.
  • Consider that the picture book texts are paginated regarding the illustration
  • Analysis of the Narrative Structure is a revision tool. How? For example, if in a 12-spread story the Inciting Incident happens on spread 10, the analysis tells you that the first 9 spreads are brimmed with the character description and the setting! This helps to fix problems faster. Or, if right after the Inciting Event (Beginning), the climax (End) happens, the analysis helps you to see you have omitted the character’s growth which should have filled the Middle.

To check my manuscripts, I paginate and make a free online dummy with ISSUU (read more here). I am not an illustrator but I write a short note of my envisioned illustration. This helps me to see where the major Plot Points happen in my manuscript. 


WHEN GRANDPA GIVES YOU A TOOLBOX! (2020) written by Jamie L.B. Deenihan and illustrated by Lorraine Rocha. In this video, Jamie reads aloud her book. 

  • Beginning (or Act I, or Setting)

The story starts with the Inciting Incident on the first spread. A boy got a birthday gift from his grandpa. In the next spread, we read that the boy doesn’t like the gift and this is Plot Point I—the reaction of the Protagonist to the Inciting Incident. So, the Beginning finishes on spread 2.

  • Middle (or Act II, or Confrontation)

The next 2 spreads show the reader how unhappy the boy is. In spread 5, the boy starts changing his mind. The sentence reads: Maybe the toolbox will be useful just this time. This is the Midpoint of the story where the Protagonist starts to change. The next three spreads show the collaboration between the grandpa and the boy to make a birdhouse and repair things for neighbors. Neighbors offer to pay him but he has a greater idea. This is the classic definition of Plot Point II (The Protagonist either lost everything or gain what he wanted, yet something is missing in his opinion). In this story, the boy uses the toolbox and even people offer him money. Yet, he wants something more. With this Plot Point, Middle finishes on spread 9.

  • End (or Act III, or Resolution)  

We see the boy and the grandpa make what the boy wanted. Spread 11 is the Climax and the last spread is the Resolution.


RAJA’S PET CAMEL: THE MAGIC OF HOPE (2020) written by Anita Nahta Amin and illustrated by Parwinder Singh. You can read the book in Edelweiss.

Raja's pet camel

  • Beginning (or Act I, or Setting)

On spread 1, Inciting Incident happens: Raja meets a camel. In the next spread, Raja decides to keep her as his pet. This is Plot Point I—the reaction of the Protagonist to the Inciting Incident.

  • Middle (or Act II, or Confrontation)

Spread 3 starts with Raja’s main problem. The camel is a wild animal and messes around. This is Pinch Point I-–the Protagonist faces the problem step by step. Raja’s father announces he will sell the camel at the fair next week and Raja decides to train the camel for the camel race at the fair. This is the Midpoint—the Protagonist works toward to his goal (keep the camel). His training is not successful and yet, there comes another problem on the day of the camel race: there is no date for the camel. This is Pinch Point II (spread8). In the next spread, we see the camel is about to lose the race. This is Plot Point II—the Protagonist is about to lose everything.

  • End (or Act III, or Resolution)

The story’s tension increases when the camel sees a man eating dates and wins the race. This is Climax. In the last spread, spread 12, Raja comes up with another idea to convince his father to keep the camel.


THE NOTEBOOK KEEPER. A STORY OF KINDNESS FROM THE BORDER (2022) by Stephen Briseño and Magdalena Mora.

The notebook keeper

  • Beginning (or Act I, or Setting)

The story starts with the Inciting Incident on spread 1. A mother tells her daughter that they have a long way to walk. In spread 2, the girl packs her staff which is Plot Point I—the reaction of the Protagonist to the Inciting Incident.

  • Middle (or Act II, or Confrontation)

After a long walk, near the border, the girl and her mother are to told to find the notebook keeper. In spread 6, they find Belinda—the notebook keeper. This is the \textbf{Midpoint}. A friendship between Belinda and the girl forms. On spread 12, Belinda’s number is called and she leaves. This is Plot Point II and the Middle finishes.

  • End (or Act III, or Resolution)

The Climax of the story is when the girl becomes the new notebook keeper. An interesting lesson to learn from this book is that it has an open ending—the last spread of the book shows the girl and the mother wait to be called. An open ending suits the story much better than a resolution.


In the next blog post, I will share another 3 analyses.  Please let me know if you disagree with any part of my analysis.

If you like to read more analysis: 

  • Sample of picture books, this post
  • Samples of early reader books link
  • Sample of picture book biographies link

I write blog posts about the craft of writing picture books (PictureBookPedia) and chapter books (ChapterBookPedia). Also, I publish a quarterly newsletter that includes links to my recent blog posts.

Posted in PictureBookPedia.

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